WEST FELICIANA PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Despite finding her not guilty, the judge presiding over the trial of a first-grade teacher accused of kicking a student and hitting him the head had harsh words for the teacher involved.
Judge William Carmichael told the teacher she would have been found guilty had she faced a lesser charge of battery, according to an official court transcript obtained by WAFB Tuesday.
Chanel Lemelle was arrested in 2015 in West Feliciana parish on one felony count of cruelty to a juvenile.
The former Bains Lower Elementary School teacher was caught on a cafeteria surveillance camera putting her foot to the backside of one of her first-grade students.
The teacher resigned after her arrest and is currently a teacher in East Baton Rouge parish.
The student's family pushed for the teacher to be prosecuted on the felony charge and did not agree to allow the judge to consider a lesser penalty of misdemeanor battery.
The case was handled as a bench trial, meaning the presiding judge rendered the verdict and not a jury.
"It's hard to watch that video when you kicked that child," Judge Carmichael said in handing down his verdict last Friday. "And, it's hard to watch the video when you hit the child in the back of the head. And, if this were the end of the trial and this were a battery trial, I'd find you guilty. But the charge is not battery," he said.
The judge went on to say that Lemelle's actions did "not rise to the level of cruelty to juveniles."
"Though she was cruel and it involved a juvenile, the statute requires more, and that just doesn't exist," he added.